Archive for December, 2021

NJ DEP Has Become A Black Hole And Accountability Free Zone

December 31st, 2021 No comments

Media, Green Groups, and the Public Literally In The Dark Without A Flashlight

NJ Gov. Murphy Pulled A Biden On Climate Before Biden Did

Associated Press Expose Of Biden Oil & Gas “Pause” Highlights The Significance

Murphy DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, in THE creepiest Zoom background ever!

Murphy DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, in THE creepiest Zoom background ever!

The lights have been turned off at DEP.

Let me offer just one recent example of what’s at stake:

The Associated Press was able to expose the fraud of the Biden Administration’s “pause” on oil and gas leasing because they were able to investigate and document federal permit data.

In turns out that the Biden Administration issued oil and gas drilling permits on public lands at a faster rate than even the Trump and Bush administrations (read the AP story):

US drilling approvals increase despite Biden climate pledge

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president, underscoring President Joe Biden’s reluctance to more forcefully curb petroleum production in the face of industry and Republican resistance.

The Interior Department approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. That includes more than 2,100 drilling approvals since Biden took office January 20.

Why is that kind of investigative journalism and accountability work NOT being done in NJ?

It should be far easier to conduct that kind of investigative journalism in NJ because a suite of NJ State laws mandate that DEP prepare annual Reports that provide exactly the kind of permit and enforcement data the Associated Press disclosed.

The NJ laws mandate that DEP prepare and publicly release annual Reports on their permit and enforcement activity for precisely the reason that the Associated Press investigated and reported on Biden oil & gas data: 1) to hold federal agencies and politicians accountable to facts; 2) to provide the public with reliable information about what their government is doing to protect their health and the environment; and 3) to prevent politicians from governing by slogans, not science.

So why is that not happening in NJ, particularly if State laws mandate release of that kind of data?

  • Why don’t we know if the so called “green” Murphy DEP has issued more or less enforcement fines than the pro-business Christie DEP? Is DEP even still enforcing the Clean Water Enforcement Act? (e.g. conducting required annual polluter inspections, issuing and collecting mandatory penalties, etc)
  • Why don’t we know if water pollution violations are going up or down?
  • Is the Murphy DEP rubber stamping a higher percentage of permit approvals and doing it even faster than the Christie DEP?
  • Why don’t we know the names of corporate polluters who are “significant non-compliers” with water pollution laws?
  • Why don’t we know how many criminal investigations and cases the Attorney General’s Office has filed for violations of NJ’s clean water laws and the names of the alleged criminal corporations?
  • Why don’t we know how many wetlands permits DEP issued last year – or in the Highlands or for warehouses – and whether development permits are increasing at a rapid rate? DEP land use permits are important indicators of land loss and rate of development.
  • Why don’t we know how many flood hazard and coastal zone development permits DEP issued that put people and property in harms way?
  • Why don’t we know how many air pollution permits DEP issued to major greenhouse gas polluters without considering NJ’s GHG emission reduction goals and climate impacts?

We don’t know any of that (and more) because DEP has not complied with NJ laws and no longer releases the “Doria” EMAP permit and Clean Water Enforcement Act mandatory annual Reports!

There are many other important Reports, not mandated by law, that provided critical information on things like toxic air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and the locations and names of dangerous toxic industrial polluters in your neighborhood that DEP used to issue but no longer issues. See this post, where I list many of them and explain their significance:

Another Say One Thing – Do The Opposite

But the “pause” hypocrisy was not unique. And there’s a NJ example by Gov. Murphy that happened years before Biden’s.

Just days after President Biden lectured the climate COP26 on a world stage about the “existential threat” posed by the climate emergency and touted US global leadership, his administration issued 80 million acres of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Even NPR slammed Biden for that: (11/17/21)


At the big international climate conference that just finished, President Biden called climate change an existential threat to human existence as we know it.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And that’s why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words.

KELLY: Today, though, the Biden administration took quite a different action – overseeing one of the largest oil and gas lease sales in American history. NPR’s Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The science is unequivocal. To slow a rapidly warming climate, reducing the risk of floods, wildfires and extreme heat, humans need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels. Yet today, the government held a lease sale for more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development. Drew Caputo is an attorney at the environmental organization Earthjustice.

DREW CAPUTO: By the government’s own estimate, those leases could produce more than a billion barrels of oil over multiple decades into the future.

ROTT: Not to mention an additional 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

When you get reamed by NPR, you know you really fucked up.

But years before President Biden pulled such a disgraceful and revealing stunt, NJ Governor Murphy beat him to the punch.

But, instead of being denounced by environmental groups and the media, Governor Murphy got a complete pass.

Very few people know this story because it was not reported. So here it is:

Just days after Gov. Murphy got great media and praise by environmental groups for signing into law a bill that was supposed to accelerate and strengthen the Global Warming Response Act and more rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the DEP issued a permit for a major climate polluter with absolutely no consideration of GHG emissions or climate issues.

Back on July 23, 2019, Gov. Murphy issued the following bill signing statement:

Today I am pleased to sign Senate Bill No. 3207 (Second Reprint) into law, establishing new timeframes and requirements for the implementation of the Global Warming Response Act. I commend the sponsors of this bill for providing the Department of Environmental Protection with the tools necessary to ensure the State meets our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2050.

But just days later, Murphy’s DEP renewed an air pollution permit that allowed over 1 million tons per year of greenhouse as emissions, with no restrictions:

See how that works? Media and Green Mafia praise the Governor’s slogans – while it goes unreported that polluters benefit from DEP permits and NJ’s Global Warming Response Act emission reduction goals are a joke.

Where the hell is the NJ press corps on these abuses?

Why aren’t environmental groups demanding that DEP comply with the law and tell the public about their permit and enforcement work?

DEP has become a black box and accountability free zone.

It’s time for some sunshine.

[End Note: DEP falsely claims that their “DataMiner” application on the DEP website provides adequate public information and that these Reports are no longer necessary. That is a factually false claim – DataMiner does not provide comparable information – and it violates the law, as I’ve written. And a private individual citizen query of dataminer could never replace DEP aggregation and analysis of Statewide data in a public Report.

DEP is also abusing OPRA public records laws by denying document requests as “deliberative privilege” or “overly broad”. For example, it is effectively no longer possible to OPRA DEP staff emails.

But just as bad, DEP has embraced the WalMart model to serving the public. WalMart no longer has checkout clerks – the customer is required to scan items and WalMart has shifted the burden (and cost) from themselves to the consumer for this work. Just like Walmart shift burden to customers to scan purchases, DEP tells people to use Dataminer to do the job they are paid and legally required to do.

At DEP, Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner Bob Martin’s “customer service” initiative has become full on “Corporate service”.

The big developers and corporate polluters are given full access to DEP staff via a panoply of administrative procedures, from secret permit pre-application conferences, to ongoing meetings and communications on permit applications, to “Dispute Resolution” procedures to negotiate  things like enforcement fines, natural resource damage assessments and compensation, and “grace periods”.

Corporate interests also get undue access by representation on DEP’s Science Advisory Board.

Corporate interests dominate DEP “Stakeholder” processes.

Corporate lawyers and engineers dominate and even draft DEP “Technical Manuals” and “Best Management Practices” BMP guidelines or issuing permits (they literally write their own ticket).

Corporate polluters, via permit fees, fund DEP staff salaries: so, as the say, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

“Polluter Pays” has become “Polluters Invest and Own”

Across the board, DEP has gone way beyond “corporate capture” and has become a corporate service agency.

(and how could we forget that the current DEP Commissioner is a former corporate lawyer!)

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Time To Shut Down NJ’s Highly Polluting And Racist Garbage Incinerators

December 30th, 2021 No comments

Garbage Incinerators Were Built In Low Income & Minority Communities 

They Are Major Sources Of Greenhouse Gas And Hazardous Air Pollution

There Are Cheaper And Greener Alternatives

It’s way past time to shut down NJ’s aging fleet of highly polluting garbage incinerators.

NJ now has 4 operating garbage incinerators (the rural Warren County facility is shut down), and they all are located in poor and/or minority environmental justice communities: They burn the following amout of garbage and emit GHG (according to DEP):

  • Newark (985,500 tons/year – 2.16 million tons per year greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Rahway (562,100 tons per year –  1.23 million tons per year GHG emissions)
  • Camden (451,140 tons per year –  988,800 tons per year GHG emissions)
  • Westville (209,875 tons per year –  460,000 tons per year GHG emissions)

That’s over 4.8 million tons per year of GHG emissions, roughly 25% of the total emissions from NJ’s power sector (19.2 million tons per year). Yet these plants provide only a tiny fraction of NJ’s electric power production.

The GHG emissions from garbage plants alone are about DOUBLE the emissions reductions that might result from DEP’s recently proposed power sector CO2 rule PLUS the much touted diesel truck rule combined (and incinerators are exempt from DEP’s proposed CO2 rule).

These GHG emissions do not include the harmful toxic and GHG emissions from the thousands of garbage trucks per day that dump at the facilities.

They also don’t include harmful emissions of mercury, lead, fine particulates, NOx, SOx, and hazardous air pollutants, which deposit locally and poison nearby environmental justice communities (look at the Newark DEP air permit emissions). [Full disclosure: I was involved with Newark project at DEP.]

The original arguments, made back in the late 1980’s, against incineration are far stronger today given the climate emergency, new science on local air pollution deposition, and the growing public disgust with environmental racism.

A Legacy Of Toxic Racism

Back in the 1980’s, the Kean Administration adopted a State Solid Waste Plan which directed all 21 NJ counties to site and develop garbage incinerators. Almost all were sited in poor and minority communities. DEP rubber stamped those County siting decisions.

This was the policy when I joined DEP in 1985. The NY Times from April 1984 explains:

In his message to the State Legislature in January, Governor Kean said that resource recovery would be implemented through a legislative package. Among other things, the package would provide financial incentives for private investment in the construction of resource-recovery facilities and a tax on garbage disposal to provide funds to develop these facilities.

In 1985, the Legislature passed laws to levy garbage disposal taxes and created a $168 million bond fund to provide huge subsidies to these “resource recovery” facilities. That same legislation (“McEnroe” named for the Democratic Assemblyman sponsors from Essex County) promoted privatization and deregulated the “public utility” economic oversight of BPU. (McEnroe deregulated solid waste haulers too). The Kean administration allocated 100% of NJ’s scarce “private activity bond volume cap” subsidies as well (instead of to other public purposes, like affordable housing). The NY/NJ Port Authority was used to subsidize the Newark incinerator (good story of how that happened). Federal energy laws (PURPA) provided huge subsidies and BPU allowed huge above market power purchase contract prices for the small amount of electric power produced at these facilities.

Statewide environmental and grassroots groups fought back. They strongly opposed incineration and mounted public campaigns against building these technological highly polluting dinosaurs. Their opposition focused on toxic air emissions, toxic residual ash, and how these facilities undermined cheaper and greener source reduction and recycling programs. The environmental racism siting issues were not yet front and center in the debate, as they are today, and there was no mention of climate issues (an incinerator sited in Trenton did prompt the environmental racism issue).

Strong public opposition grew and democracy worked, which led Gov. Florio – via Executive Order #8 –  to declare a moratorium on DEP approvals of incineration.

EO 8 created a public Solid Waste Task Force that led to the development of a radically improved DEP Solid Waste Plan that mandated a policy hierarchy of source reduction, recycling, composting, and landfill. That plan set the nation’s then highest recycling rate (65%), backed up by State laws funding and mandating source separation and local recycling programs.

Garbage incineration was deemed a “technology of last resort” by that DEP Solid Waste Plan and any new garbage incinerator had to be regionalized.

That led to the termination of 15 planned, financed, and/or DEP permitted county incinerators.

But the current fleet of 5 were either operating, under construction, or too far along financially or legally to be canceled by the new DEP plan and were effectively grandfathered from it (regardless of how bad the pollution and economics were).

[Note: astonishingly, the current DEP Solid Waste Plan (last updated in 2006!) not only totally whitewashes this history, it actually criticizes Gov. Florio’s Executive Order as:

an administrative policy and has tended to divert attention away from the more significant goal of recycling at least 50% of the municipal solid waste stream.

I smell the fingerprints of Gary Sondermeyer and Guy Watson, 2 DEP bureaucrats we had to work around to make things happen.]

Here’s How To Shut Them Down

The same strong arguments opposing incineration the led Gov. Florio to issue Executive Order #8 and impose a moratorium and cancel 15 planned incinerators still hold today and are made far stronger by the climate crisis and the awareness of the blatant racism that drove the siting of those facilities.

The bonds on those facilities have long been paid for, so there is no private “stranded investment”,  no lost public investment, and need to compensate the corporate owners of those facilities.

The original DEP air and solid waste permits have expired and been renewed several times.

It’s time to just shut them down.

DEP could do that by simply revoking the DEP operating permits and unilaterally amending the State Solid Waste Plan to delete them from County Solid Waste Plans.

The scientific, legal, and regulatory basis for DEP to do that is that there is the new information  generated since the DEP permits were issued regarding the climate crisis and localized impacts of air emissions on environmental justice communities.

With respect to climate, the current DEP Solid Waste Plan estimates: (Note: this plan and this data are over 15 years old)

The USEPA calculated that on average, approximately 1.67 metric tons of CO2 equivalents are avoided for every ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) recycled. If the MSW recycling rate increases from 34% to 50%, a total of 7.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in avoided Greenhouse Gas emissions would result.

DEP can reopen, amend, and/or revoke permits on the basis of new information. The public (activists) can petition DEP to reopen and revoke permits on this basis under DEP permit regulations.

Additionally, there is new law, including the passage of NJ’s Global Warming Response Act and the Environmental Justice law.

Why aren’t climate and EJ activists demanding shutdown?

[End Note: The history is even worse than The NY Times story describes.

A media exaggerated “landfill disposal crisis” provided cover for the Kean DEP to force north jersey counties to build expensive garbage transfer stations to export garbage long distances to midwestern landfills.  Of course, Wall Street and politically powerful NJ Bond Counsel law firms like McCarter and English loved this.

The resulting high tipping fees at these transfer stations increased historical in state landfill disposal costs – sometimes by an order of magnitude – to over $130 per ton or more.

The “rate shock” and impact on local budgets were intended to coerce counties into building “cheaper” incinerators, which were supposed to be welcomed by the public as a “cheaper” alternative to the DEP manufactured rate shock from the transfer stations.

I’m not making this up – This cynical economic blackmail strategy was all laid out in a consultant’s Report – The Mitre Report it was called.

NJ Gov. Murphy’s Climate Policies Are Greatly Exaggerated

December 29th, 2021 No comments

DEP Power Sector Emissions Proposal And Diesel Truck Rule Produce Negligible Reductions

Building Sector Emissions And Electrification Ignored

Shutdown of Newark, Camden & Rahway Garbage Incinerators Would Provide Far More Pollution Reductions and EJ Community Benefits

NJ Gov. Murphy has gotten strong praise from NJ environmental, climate, and EJ groups and media for his climate policies.

Off shore wind investments and the Gov. Executive Orders on aspirational goals have been used to obscure the actual greenhouse gas emissions issues.

[Here’s recently deceased Joan Didion’s famous takedown of Bob Woodward making my point clearly:

The genuflection toward “fairness” is a familiar newsroom piety, the excuse in practice for a good deal of autopilot reporting and lazy thinking but a benign ideal. In Washington, however, a community in which the management of news has become the single overriding preoccupation of the core industry, what “fairness” has too often come to mean is a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured. ~~~ end]

To reduce emissions, the administration advanced 2 DEP rule proposals: 1) a carbon dioxide (CO2) rule that applies to a portion of the power sector (now subject to public comment) and 2) a diesel truck rule (recently adopted).

Both have gotten exaggerated and false praise by environmental groups and media.

Media has failed to report what the actual emissions reductions would be (best case) from these rules or what impact they would have on reducing total greenhouse gas emissions.

So let me very briefly provide that factual information:

I)  Diesel Truck rule

The Newark garbage incinerator emits 2.16 million tons per year of CO2 equivalents (that does not include all the emissions from the hundreds of diesel trucks per day that dump there).

Just shutting down the Newark garbage incinerator would provide over 13 TIMES more emissions reductions than the diesel truck rule would provide (more if you count the diesel trucks). See:

According to DEP’s own proposal, the diesel truck rule would reduce emissions just 162,500 tons per year: (@ p.  46 – 47)

the Department estimates cumulative total CO2  reductions from 2024 through 2040 to be 2.6 MMT

(Math: (2,600,000 tons)/16 years = 162,500 tons per year)

According to the DEP’s most recent Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory total GHG emissions in NJ were 97.7 million tons/year (2019). (with no cap on total emissions, those emissions are likely to grow by 2035, due to economic growth, increased consumption, more logging and development of forests, rampant unregulated warehouse development, loss of farmlands to development and industrial solar, more roads, more vehicle miles travelled, and conversion to electric power increasing electric demand before the power sector is 100% renewables).

The diesel truck rule would reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by just 0.16%

(Math: (162,500)/(97,700,000) X 100= 0.16%)

II)  CO2 Power Sector rule 

According to DEP, the best case, assuming full compliance with the rule and other rosy DEP projections, the power sector emissions would be reduced by 2.5 million tons per year by 2035.

DEP admits this on page 58:

The estimated total potential avoided CO2 emissions is approximately 2,548,210 tons per year.

That’s just 13% of power sector emissions and just 2.6% of current total state emissions.

Again, the Newark garbage incinerator emits 2.1 million tons CO2 equivalent.

According to DEP, Newark burns 985,000 tons of garbage per year .

The Camden incinerator, located in NJ’s poorest and blackest EJ city, burns 451,140 tons.

Assuming comparable greenhouse gas emissions, the Camden incinerator emits almost another million tons (962,000).

So shutting down the Newark and Camden incinerators would far exceed the greenhouse gas emissions reductions of BOTH DEP rules.

In addition to the greenhouse gas reductions, that shutdown would also reduce other hazardous air pollutants like lead, mercury, fine particulates, NOx, and SOx that deposit locally and harm the health of environmental justice communities.

The Union County (located in Rahway) garbage incinerators emits another 1 million tons and Gloucester about half a million.

Shut them all down!

[Historical Note: For those who may think that shutting down 4 currently operating aging dinosaur polluting garbage incinerators is a heavy political lift, consider the fact that Gov. Florio (1990 – 1994) Executive Order #8 established a moratorium and policy and Statewide DEP plan that resulted in the termination of 15 planned garbage incinerators most of which were financed and permitted at a bond amount of over $3 billion ($5 – $6 billion in today’s dollars).

In case the hacks in current Gov. Murphy’s Office don’t understand how to draft an Executive Order with teeth, here’s how it’s done: (I know, I worked with Frank Sweeney in Florio’s Gov. Office to do this):

The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a final approval of any solid waste management plan that sites increases the capacity of or approves financing for waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

b. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a approval of Preliminary or Final Environmental and Health Impact Statements for any waste-to-energy resource recovery site or facility;

c. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue tentative or final approval of any solid waste facility engineering design now pending or hereafter submitted for any waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

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Murphy DEP Climate Rule Proposal Entirely Ignores Environmental Justice Issues

December 28th, 2021 No comments

DEP Makes a Mockery Of Gov. Murphy’s Ex. Orders and Environmental Justice Law

An Incredible Political Betrayal and Policy Blunder

Doremus Ave., Newark, NJ

Doremus Ave., Newark, NJ – one of NJ’s “worst”

We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric from Gov. Murphy and his DEP Commissioner about their commitment to environmental justice (EJ) and many pledges to reduce disproportionate pollution burdens in those communities to alleviate disparate health impacts on EJ communities.

The Gov. has issued several Executive Orders on EJ – Executive Order #23 (4/20/18) directed DEP specifically:

The Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), in consultation with the Department of Law and Public Safety and other relevant departments, shall take the lead in developing guidance for all Executive branch departments and agencies for the consideration of Environmental Justice in implementing their statutory and regulatory responsibilities.

Repeat: DEP is required to consider “Environmental Justice in implementing their statutory and regulatory responsibilities.”

Later, the Legislature passed a so-called “historic environmental justice” law the Gov. signed that requires DEP to consider EJ impacts is specific EJ communities, including consideration of cumulative impacts:

“Today we are sending a clear message that we will longer allow Black and Brown communities in our state to be dumping grounds, where access to clean air and clean water are overlooked,” said Governor Murphy. “This action is a historic step to ensure that true community input and collaboration will factor into decisions that have a cumulative impact for years to come. I’m incredibly proud that New Jersey is now home to the strongest environmental justice law in the nation.”

Recognizing the core relationships between EJ and climate issues, the Gov. and the DEP Commissioner also repeatedly have linked the climate emergency to the EJ issue, and pledged to address the EJ issue in climate adaptation and greenhouse gas emissions mitigation programs: (Gov. press release)

“We cannot achieve environmental justice in New Jersey unless we confront the real and growing threat of climate change,” said Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck.

So, after this barrage of rhetoric, I must say that I was absolutely stunned – but somehow not surprised – that the DEP’s climate PACT rule proposal designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (a misnomer, it’s actually limited to just CO2) completely ignored the EJ issue!

Hit the link and read the DEP proposal for yourself.

You will not find the words “environmental justice”; “stressor”; “disproportionate burden” mentioned at all, nor the EJ law cited as a legal basis for the proposal.

Amazingly, the DEP does mention adverse health impacts in “urban” areas from climate related problems, including heat waves and increased ground level ozone levels. But they fail to connect this science to the EJ issue.

Shamefully, DEP limits the consideration and discussion of these adverse EJ health impacts to the economic impact section – where DEP analyzes the “Monetized value of CO2 emission reductions” (see p. 78):

Additionally, the co-benefit reductions of SO2, NOx, VOC, methane, PM, and hazardous air pollutants will benefit New Jersey and its residents by reducing the number of premature deaths, minimizing risk of lowered productive work hours and lost work days, lessening the number of health care visits, and reducing health care and hospitalization costs.

(and if you really want your head to explode, turn to page 102 where – despite ignoring EJ community impacts – DEP conducts a detailed impact assessment of adverse health impacts on agricultural crops and livestock!)

These are the perverted values and policies you get with a former corporate lawyer as Commissioner of DEP and a former Wall Street vulture as Governor – they sure know how to “monetize” people and planet!

Additionally, the Murphy DEP climate proposal completely ignores the “cumulative impact” issues.

The term “cumulative” is used 7 times, but only to summarize the “cumulative economic benefits” of the proposal, not cumulative impacts on EJ communities. Read the rule proposal yourself and confirm that.

No one seriously thought Gov. Christie would be a champion of EJ issues. So when the Christie DEP ignored EJ issues in DEP clean air regulations, the NJ Environmental Justice Advisory Council blasted Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, see:

The dissenters recommend that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Department) conduct robust and transparent stakeholder meetings that result in the development and implementation of a coherent cumulative impacts policy. This policy should be incorporated in the Department’s decision-making process, including permitting, in the near future. While we do not oppose continued research into the cumulative impacts of toxic air contaminants on sensitive subpopulations and the general public, we cannot support the recommendation that additional research substitute for the actual development and implementation of a coherent policy. The dissenters find such a recommendation antithetical to good public policy while our citizens, particularly those in communities Of Color and low-income neighborhoods, bear the burden of continuing, and often increasing, threats to public health and welfare.

But Gov. Murphy and his DEP Commissioner – who have rhetorically championed the EJ and cumulative impact issues – have been given a pass by the EJ advocates, despite the betrayal in this important clean air climate rule proposal.

I’m sure that the manipulators in the Gov.’s Office and at DEP have whispered in the EJ community’s ear to keep their powder dry in hopes of DEP proposing a strong environmental justice and cumulative impact rule to implement the new EJ law.

But, that’s just another cynical game – and it ain’t gonna happen (and I’ve explained why in numerous prior posts).

[End Note: This is not some inadvertent oversight by DEP or unique disconnect between DEP and the Gov.’s Office. It is policy and practice.

Check out Gov. Murphy rhetoric in his recent Executive Order #274:

WHEREAS, minority and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by climate change, including by the health effects of higher temperatures and increased air pollution, and by the displacement of coastal and low-lying neighborhoods from sea level rise and flooding;

I’ve called bullshit on this several times. We have a pattern here, see:

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NJ Spotlight Tries To Change The Subject To Mask Their False Reporting On DEP Regulation Of Methane Emissions

December 27th, 2021 No comments

We warned that Murphy climate law was a “fake solution”

We predicted DEP could not & would not regulate methane

DEP’s Proposed Climate CO2 Air Pollution Rule Does Not Regulate Methane

A little over 3 years ago, on 11/28/18, NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson wrote an unusual story timed to the introduction of climate legislation (rarely is introduced legislation newsworthy before it is heard in Committee). Just days after the bill was introduced, before it was even heard, Tom (and Doug O’Malley) were cheerleading big time, see:

A central factual claim in that story was that the legislation was “going after methane”.

Under a boldface large font subheadline, the story claimed:

Going after methane

Among other things, the bill would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a comprehensive strategy to curb emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane. Methane, a component in natural gas that often leaks from pipelines, is much more potent that other greenhouse gas pollutants, such as carbon dioxide.

On the same day, we wrote to debunk that lie, see:

Just like the failed GWRA  – which I criticized at the outset – Smith’s bill limits the scope of DEP regulations to emissions monitoring and reporting and merely directs DEP to prepare a Report. […]

Regarding actual GHG emissions, Smith’s bill merely requires DEP to develop a “strategy”. […]

A strategy is NOT an authority to adopt regulations to limit GHG emissions or impose emissions fees on GHG emissions.

NJ Spotlight makes a big deal about the fact that the bill purportedly applies to and “goes after” methane.

This is false and misleading.

It is a sop to naive and incompetent anti-pipeline activists (like Rethink NJ) and designed to create the false appearance that it would regulate methane emissions from proposed pipelines or gas fired power plants. This is false and cynical – a classic “fake solution”.

As I’ve written, [then current] DEP regulations do not regulate methane emissions from pipelines, or GHG emissions from any pollution sources, see: NJ Environmental Regulations Ignore Climate Change

The bill does not regulate methane and is NOT “going after methane”.

I followed that criticism up the next day with specific recommendations to Senator Smith on how to put teeth in the bill.

The false November 2018 NJ Spotlight story on the bill’s introduction was followed up additional false stories (alternately citing cheerleaders Doug O’Malley and Tom Gilbert as sources).

When the Senate passed the bill, Tom Gilbert said this: (NJ Spotlight)

Other environmental advocates were more optimistic. “This is much needed legislation to ensure the state takes meaningful steps to reduce emissions,’’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director of Rethink Energy NJ.

He cited provisions requiring the DEP to set benchmarks between now and 2050 for curbing carbon pollution and requiring actions to reduce emissions to achieve the targets if monitoring shows the state will fall short.

When the Governor signed the bill, Tom Gilbert said this: (NJ Spotlight)

Gilbert argued the legislation makes clear the administration plans to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions before the end of Murphy’s term. Clean-energy advocates have long argued the DEP has the legal authority to do so but that the department has been reluctant to do so.

“We are going to see the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions before the completion of the Governor’s first term,’’ Gilbert said. “There couldn’t be any more urgency for us to get it done.’’

When the Gov. signed the bill into law in July 2019, Gov. Murphy issued a highly unusual signing statement:

Today I am pleased to sign Senate Bill No. 3207 (Second Reprint) into law, establishing new timeframes and requirements for the implementation of the Global Warming Response Act. I commend the sponsors of this bill for providing the Department of Environmental Protection with the tools necessary to ensure the State meets our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2050. ….

Although this bill was amended to remove black carbon as a greenhouse gas, black carbon continues to be a short-lived climate pollutant, and will be a part of the State’s comprehensive emissions reduction strategy. Furthermore, I am directing the Department of Environmental Protection to use its existing legal authority, in addition to the authority provided by this bill, to administratively address the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, which will provide short-term air quality benefits while also reducing climate warming pollutants.

I called Bullshit on that and explained why the law did not regulate methane and the Gov.s signing statement was absurd, see:

… The introduced version of the bill defined methane as a “greenhouse gas” and applied to methane as a part of a program governing “short lived climate pollutant” in Section 6.

Section 6 “short lived climate pollutant” DEP authority and program was deleted in its entirety. That section also included a provision preserving DEP’s “existing authority”.  Elimination of those provisions creates a very strong legislative intent argument that the DEP doesn’t have any “existing authority” and now lacks statutory authority and legislative intent to regulate methane.

But NJ Spotlight refused to report that truth and again falsely reported on the methane issue, see:

As I noted, Tom Gilbert was not the only useful idiot cheerleader. Here’s another, in a Bergen Record  story:

“These are all important moves, but we need to make sure that DEP develops rules to regulate black carbon,” Goldsmith said. “They have the power to do this. They need to do this.”

Well, as we warned and predicted, among several other fatal flaws (i.e. see this and this), the DEP’s proposed climate air pollution rule only regulated CO2 and DOES NOT REGULATE METHANE EMISSIONS.

I revealed that huge flaw and explained how it would enable DEP to continue to rubber stamp methane infrastructure, including pipelines, gas power plants, and gas compressor stations, see:

First, the DEP proposal fails to regulate methane emissions.

Methane is 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (in the short-run, over a 20 year period).

In 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law P.L.2019, c.319 that requires DEP to use a 20-year time horizon and most recent IPCC Assessment Report when calculating global warming potential to measure the global warming impact of greenhouse gases.

Yet here is how DEP (under)estimated the warming potential of methane (top of page 30)

Direct methane emissions released to the atmosphere (without burning) are about 25 times more powerful than CO2 in terms of their warming effect on the atmosphere.

So, the DEP not only failed to regulate methane emissions, they are ignoring a State law mandate and misleading the public about  the warming potential of methane.

DEP originally defined methane as a regulated greenhouse gas way back in 2005, but did not regulate methane emissions (see DEP rule adoption, @ p. 66)

New Jersey’s decision to expand its emissions statement rules to require reporting for CO2 and methane resulted in Maine and Connecticut following suit, and other states are actively considering comparable requirements

In 2019, the NJ Global Warming Response Act was amended to address methane: (revealing their cheerleading role, Gov. Murphy’s press release is actually posted on the NJ Conservation Foundation website!)

The Legislature further finds and declares that, while carbon dioxide is the primary and most abundant greenhouse gas, other greenhouse gases known as short-lived climate pollutants, including black carbon, fluorinated gases, and methane, create a warming influence on the climate that is many times more potent over a shorter period of time than that of carbon dioxide, and have a dramatic and detrimental effect on air quality, public health, and climate change; and that reducing emissions of these pollutants can have an immediate beneficial impact on climate change and public health.

But DEP defied the legislature’s findings and mandate on how to calculate methane warming potential.

The failure to regulate methane allows DEP to rubber stamp permits for major fossil infrastructure like LNG export plants, gas pipelines, gas power plants, and compressor stations without considering GHG emissions, climate impacts or the emission reduction goals of the Global Warming Response Act or the Governor’s recent Executive Order 274.

According to a petition for rulemaking submitted to DEP by the EMPOWER NJ coalition, there are multiple major proposed natural gas pipelines, compressor stations, power plants and an LNG export project pending DEP permit review. Those projects, according to the petition, would increase current greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30%. (see point #64, p. 19-20)

These projects emit both methane (directly and by leaks) and carbon dioxide (by combustion of the methane natural gas fuel).

Because DEP is not regulating methane, the methane emissions from these projects (lifecycle, from the fracking gas well to the point of use) would not be considered or regulated.

The carbon dioxide emissions from these projects, e.g. for gas fueled power plants, would be below DEP’s promoted CO2 emission standards for individual sources, and therefore would be permitted by DEP.

So, one would think that now that the facts are on the public record, that NJ Spotlight would correct their prior false reporting about methane and Tom Gilbert and Doug O’Malley would criticize this DEP failure.

One would be wrong.

Instead of owning this huge reporting error on methane and reporting on the DEP’s failure to regulate methane, NJ Spotlight today tried to change the subject – again citing the useful idiot Tom Gilbert – and imply that methane restrictions were under development, see:

The Murphy BPU’s release of that pipeline capacity Report is obvious news management to divert from Murphy’s DEP’s failure to regulate methane. (FYI, the BPU Energy Master Plan doesn’t begin to implement electrification of buildings until 2030, while NJ Spotlight reports an assumption that half of building electrification could be in place by 2030!)

NJ Spotlight went right along with it and used it to mask their prior reporting errors.

Shame on NJ Spotlight. This is not an accident. It’s part of an obvious long-standing pattern I’ve repeatedly criticized. Time for Tom Johnson to retire.

Tom Gilbert should be shunned by climate activists and people should stop donating to NJ Conservation Foundation, who employs Gilbert.

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